There are 7 million open jobs in America today. And yes, millions of working age people with disabilities are not getting jobs. Why? Because low expectations and prejudice are holding too many of us back. We who have disabilities know what we can do. We can and must succeed. It is imperative that people with disabilities join the gig economy now. It is also time for agencies whose mission is to improve the financial health of people with disabilities to focus on the gig economy as well.
The U.S. is moving swiftly into the gig economy. More and more people find themselves working independently. Companies such as UBER and Lyft are quickly replacing taxi companies with independent drivers using their own cars. Upwork is an online marketplace to find all kinds of independent workers. Ebay and Amazon make it easy for small businesses and independent workers to sell their wares online. It is imperative that people with disabilities join the gig economy now.
In the gig economy every independent worker must learn how not to feel isolated. Often finding themselves alone in front of a computer or smartphones they must learn to find mentors to help guide them. They must create their own daily structures. With no training or experience, they are expected to do things such as pay taxes, save for retirement, pay for healthcare, save for sick days and vacation days. People with disabilities must also learn how working independently will affect their ability to pay for long-term medical expenses including personal assistant services, durable medical equipment, long term therapies, and maintenance drugs. Perhaps most importantly, independent workers must learn how to effectively market their products and services. Teaching all these skills should be the focus of agencies wanting to improve employment opportunities for people with disabilities.
The gig economy also encourages the creation of small businesses. Undoubtedly, along with being able to be good independent workers, there are people with disabilities who can and should be entrepreneurs. Agencies should be incubating and promoting Disabled Owned Business Enterprises (DOBEs). They should be assisting entrepreneurs with disabilities find capital, find board members and mentors, setup and organize, and market the business's products and services. Ideally the agency that helps capitalize and/or guides the DOBE will be partially funded by the DOBE.
The type of businesses that could be DOBEs is endless. Each of the skills listed above could be its own business. Imagine, for example, a business that does taxes for independent workers, or a business that help independent workers save. Imagine a business that provide healthcare or personal assistant services for independent workers. Many of the functions now done by agencies promoting employment for people with disabilities might be done even more effectively by DOBEs. The time might have arrived to move beyond making employers aware of skills people with disabilities have and having DOBEs run talent agencies providing employers with the skills they need.
I am very interested in promoting Disabled Owned Business Enterprise. Please let me know you if you know any businesses that are 51% or more owned by a person with a disability or a veteran. I want to make sure they are certified (see DOBE Certification). I also want to add them to the DOBE page on the Abilicorp website.
It is always frightening when a change as huge as the gig economy occurs. However, change often brings new and exciting opportunities. For many people with disabilities the gig economy will provide the chance to work when, where and how we can and want to work. It will challenge us to be creative, innovative and resourceful. Success will totally be ours to aim for and attain.
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